I never inked or colored any of my drawings. I never did anything more with them because I was afraid of ruining them. Each one I signed and saved for fear that I would never be able to draw another picture of equal quality again.
I honestly don't know what I was so afraid of. My young mind could not grasp the concept that I was getting better. Yesterday's work might have been better than today's but last month's wasn't. So I stayed trapped at the same level of artistic ability because I refused to take chances.
One of my problems was not having a mentor. I looked at art and assumed that it came out just as I saw it. I thought this all the way up until art school, and even then I didn't really get it. Slowly, as I watched and learned. I started to realize things about these godlike figures and their ability to produce art that made me look like a hack; they were hacks too.
I'd been out of art school for about five years when this finally dawned on me. I was watching videos on YouTube of comic artists working at their craft. All around them were reference drawings. Facial expressions, hands, bodies from extreme points of view. These guys didn't sit down and have excellence spill from their pens. They brainstormed, sketched, narrowed their ideas down, then drew from reference materials. When they did produce a fantastic sketch on a whim it was of a character that they'd drawn a thousand times before in a position they'd drawn ten thousand times.
Every artist has reference material. If they get a character into a position that they can't remember how to draw, they look it up. When I'd get to that same point I'd throw up my hands in defeat and admit to myself that I had no idea what I was doing. I wasn't an artist, I didn't know how to draw. I could mimic someone else's work, but couldn't create my own.
Those videos helped me to realize that I was holding myself back with my own perception of how art was created. And just the other day I was watching the video included in this post. I watched how the artist repositioned the nose, drew and erased lines, added and tweaked, took away. I related it to my own writing, how I'll write out a story in one go, likened to a sketch, then have to go back and tweak it, polish it off. I'll jump around, reworking the beginning, then hopping to someplace just after the middle.
I think all artists have a tendency to forget this, especially writers. Writers can't look back over a sketchbook and say unequivocally that what we produced today is better than what came before it. We can't sit down and watch a video of another writer's process in hyper speed. We don't go to classes with other artists, set up our easels and write out stories that everyone around us can see taking shape as we go, with an instructor walking around the class and whispering over our shoulder compliments and suggestions.
I think that we too often assume that the words have to come out perfectly. If we can't achieve beauty in a single stroke then it's not art. If anything, I've found that art is not so much an expression of perfection, it's an experiment in patience and perseverance. It's hanging in there to make all the little corrections and changes necessary to make the end product look effortless. It has to do with that notion of not actually being an expert but making it look like you are. Remember this as you pull out something you shoved into a desk drawer long ago. We all have those stories, stories that we were so enthralled with until we realized that what we'd created was crap.
Unlike an oil painting that dries and can't be reworked after a certain point, our stories can always have life breathed back into them. We can always come back to those soulless eyes once we've learned how to draw them, once we've found reference material to pattern them after. So allow yourself to sketch and experiment and remember that writing is an experiment in patience and perseverance.
Images: 1) Zombie Tramp by toxiccandie, 2) terrible sight drawing done when I was 13, 3) Quick sketches I did during a literary criticism class back around 2002, I was not nearly as focused as the young lady I sketched :).